Secrets of Success

Success! It is something most of us seek in one fashion or another. I looked up the definition of success, and the most straight forward one is "to achieve the desired outcome". Whatever the desired out come, we seek it naturally. The most important desired outcome is our salvation and that of others around us. An important desired outcome is to succeed in our work, whatever that may be.

Since this is a Financial Tips Blog, that's the direction we will head today. This article is called Secrets of Success because many people do not know these tips or at least don’t follow them.

If your goal is to help support the Kingdom, and hopefully it is, you have to have some level of financial success to do so, and your work will lead you to financial success. It's hard to support the Kingdom, when you can't support yourself. So with that said, here are some secrets for success that I have learned through 6 decades of life and work.

1. Always work hard in every circumstance - this almost goes without saying, but the road to success is never smooth and the road to heaven is narrow.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

Colossians 3:23-24 NIV

“Work hard and become a leader; be lazy and become a slave.” - Proverbs‬ ‭12:24‬ ‭NLT

2. Always have a good, positive attitude - another obvious saying, yet not always easy. Sometimes you have to force yourself to do it. Even when forced, eventually it becomes your real attitude.

“Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky” - Philippians 2:14-15 NIV

“We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world—right up to this moment.”

1 Corinthians 4:12-13 NIV

3. Never, ever say "it's not my job", even if it isn't your job. Be willing to take on any task you can reasonably accomplish.

“Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people.” - 1 Peter 2:13-15 NIV

“Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free.” - Ephesians 6:5-8 NIV

4. The corollary to never "saying it is not my job" is to know when to say no. You cannot say yes to everything. Just say no respectfully and offer an alternative if possible. Take time to rest and renew yourself.

““Six days you shall labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during the plowing season and harvest you must rest.”

Exodus 34:21 NIV

“So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.” - Mark 6:32 NIV

5. Never stop, learning and growing in your professional knowledge and in knowledge of the Lord.

“so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God,” - Colossians 1:10 NIV

6. Never ever be afraid to say you don't know the answer, but don't stop there - say "I don't know the answer but I will find out". Don't make stuff up on the fly. If people know they can come to you for the answers, even if you have to get back to them, you become a more necessary and valuable worker.

"Wise people treasure knowledge, but the babbling of a fool invites disaster.”

‭‭ - Proverbs‬ ‭10:14‬ ‭NLT‬‬

“Intelligent people are always ready to learn. Their ears are open for knowledge.”

‭‭ - Proverbs‬ ‭18:15‬ ‭NLT‬‬

7. When you run out of work, find something that needs to be done. Don't sit and wait for an assignment, look for it. By taking the initiative, you will show your employer or supervisor that you are more valuable than your paycheck.

“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going.” - Ecclesiastes‬ ‭9:10‬ ‭NKJV

8. Be proactive- anticipate questions, problems and concerns. It is hard when you are first starting out, proactivity is a skill developed with time and practice. Think about what questions you had in a given situation, and have the answers ready. Think what might go wrong with a plan and plan for how you might deal with those problems.

“A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.” - Proverbs‬ ‭22:3‬ ‭NLT‬‬

9. This rule came from a very bright young employee in my department - whatever assignment you are given no matter how mundane, whatever happens in life, good or bad, always look for the lessons that can be found in everything. Even the most boring task has a lesson to be learned that will help you in life.

“Intelligent people are always ready to learn. Their ears are open for knowledge.”

‭‭ - Proverbs‬ ‭18:15‬ ‭NLT‬‬

10. Always work for the glory of God, rather than for the praises of man. Even if your job is sweeping floors, give it your best for God. In the end the most successful person is the one that hears "Well done, good and faithful servant" when they stand before The Lord.

You Don’t Have to Live Like This!

Burden - “a load, typically a heavy one.”

I came across an interesting, yet scary, article talking about people living paycheck to paycheck. It says that the government shutdown highlights that 78% of American workers (that's nearly 4 out of 5 people) live from paycheck to paycheck. They have no emergency fund and likely are heavily in debt.

Living paycheck to paycheck is like building a house of cards. A small puff of wind and it all comes down. One illness, layoff or government shutdown and you have lost everything you worked for. No sane person living like this can tell me that they don't worry about it. I have been there so I know. Every time I read an article or heard a news report about economic trouble or an impending layoff, I got a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I still do, but now it's for the other people who are living beyond their means. This is no way to live.

In fact, God doesn't want us to live that way. Jesus said "......My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” - John‬ ‭10:10‬ ‭NLT‬‬. The way to a rich and satisfying life is to focus your attentions on Jesus, and not worry about your next paycheck or whether you will run out of money before your next paycheck or the debts you owe.

If you decide it is time to no longer live like this, there are ways out of the hole. To learn more about how to move away from fear and towards a rich and satisfying life, there are books - "Total Money Makeover" by Dave Ramsey, for example; small groups such as "Financial Peace" from Dave Ramsey and "Do Well" from Crown Ministries, or this blog, will have lots of information to get you on track and keep you there. As you learn and grow, the Bible is full of verses warning about debt, and how to handle your money and property God's way.

A link to the article is below, just copy and paste int your browser:

Financial Infidelity

How many of you have heard the term financial infidelity?

According to Merrimack-Webster, infidelity is defined as:

0. lack of belief in a religion

0. unfaithfulness to a moral obligation

0. the act or fact of having a romantic or sexual relationship with someone other than one's husband, wife, or partner.

Most of us are aware of the 3rd kind infidelity, and we have heard the term infidel in the news. However, it is the second kind that we are going to talk about within the confines of a marriage. When we married our spouses we made a commitment to love and honor our spouse, among other things. Spending significant sums of money without discussing it with you spouse is most certainly not honoring your spouse. It's a trust issue. Your spouse should be able to trust you.

“Her husband can trust her, and she will greatly enrich his life. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.” - Proverbs‬ ‭31:11-12‬ ‭NLT‬‬. You can switch the gender on this one if it fits. Both ways apply.

I have seen this frequently on financially oriented websites lately. "My husband/wife bought/borrowed some big dollar amount and didn't discuss it with me first". Our me culture and I can do it alone attitude says it's ok to buy or go into debt on your own. It is not ok.

If you go out and buy a new expensive want-it without discussing it with your spouse, that's financial infidelity. Hiding certain items of spending from your spouse is financial infidelity. A marriage is a partnership where you love your partner as you love yourself and treat him or her as you want to be treated. Agree with your spouse ahead of time how much either of you can spend with out checking with the other, then any amounts beyond that should be discussed ahead of time.

I've known couples who have spent themselves into a huge hole, where one or both spouses spent wildly without discussing it at all with their partner. Don't do it, financial infidelity can lead to divorce and bankruptcy or both. Spend wisely and never spend without your spouses knowledge and consent.

Black Friday 2018

Black Friday is coming!

Later this week are the (in)famous Black Friday sales, and Cyber Monday follows shortly thereafter. This is a time when people lose sleep and time with their families and possibly some blood in the process. Let us share the reason for the name first, the black in Black Friday stands for profit. The accountants out there know red ink means losses and black ink means profit. Historically, on Black Friday, stores begin to be profitable for the first time in the year, sometimes very profitable with the massive spending that starts on that day (or sooner if you leave your family on Thursday for early sales). So this coming week the stores will get black ink on their financial books and millions of Americans books will get red ink on their personal finances.

I totally understand that there is a certain amount of fun in scoring a bargain while on the hunt. But, as you shop this coming Black Friday, or in the days until Christmas there are a few verses we need to keep in mind at all times, even more so at times like Black Friday. In fact, while waiting in lines for the stores to open would be a great time to start memorizing Bible verses


“Just as the rich rule the poor, so the borrower is servant to the lender.”

‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭22:7‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Whatever you buy this Christmas season, DO NOT go into debt to do it. A few moments of joy, followed by years of payments is not the kind of joy Christ referred to in John 16:24. You can't buy love with gifts and more expensive gifts certainly won't buy more love.

“At that time you won’t need to ask me for anything. I tell you the truth, you will ask the Father directly, and he will grant your request because you use my name. You haven’t done this before. Ask, using my name, and you will receive, and you will have abundant joy.” - John‬ ‭16:23-24‬ ‭NLT‬‬


“So an elder must be a man whose life is above reproach. He must be faithful to his wife. He must exercise self-control, live wisely, and have a good reputation. He must enjoy having guests in his home, and he must be able to teach.”

‭‭1 Timothy‬ ‭3:2‬ ‭NLT‬‬

As we go about our shopping, never forget we are God's children and we can't bring reproach on his name, so behave accordingly.

“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.” - Philippians‬ ‭2:3‬ ‭NLT‬‬


““You must not covet your neighbor’s house. You must not covet your neighbor’s wife, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor.””

‭‭Exodus‬ ‭20:17‬ ‭NLT‬‬

If you keep this verse in mind, it may just help you with the other verses above. Never forget that most retailers are not thinking about your joy or salvation, or even your personal financial condition. In fact, their desires are exactly opposite yours - they are there to make a profit (which is necessary for their survival and certainly not sinful), so don't yoke yourself to debt and hardship by overspending this year.

“Live like no one else now, so you can live and give like no one else later on.”

The Holiday Season is Upon Us

It’s hard to believe how fast this year has gone by.  November is knocking at the door and that means the beginning of the holiday season.  For many, the holiday season, Thanksgiving and Christmas, are joyful times spent with friends and family.  For others, it is a sad and lonely time because of losses over the past year.

While this is a finance blog, as an aside, remember those people who might be lonely this year and invite them into your life and joyful times.  It doesn’t have to cost much, or anything at all, but bringing joy into someone’s life will add to your joy.  Love and Joy are two of the very few things you can give away to others and it leaves you with way more than you started with.  Now that’s an ROI (return on investment) that can’t be beat!

But, I digress.  The holiday season is also the time of year when people spend their way into credit card and other debt that can literally take years to repay.  I came across this quote from Henry David Thoreau - “The way you spend Christmas is far more important than how much”.  This is a really good thought to keep in mind this year.  

The best source of wisdom for life is the Bible, and the book of Proverbs is full of wisdom for every day living, useful even for non-believers.  The following are two verses that we should all memorize and repeat to ourselves during the upcoming holiday season.

“The wise have wealth and luxury, but fools spend whatever they get.” - Proverbs‬ ‭21:20‬ ‭NLT‬‬

“Just as the rich rule the poor, so the borrower is servant to the lender.” - Proverbs‬ ‭22:7‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I truly understand the joy of giving, and the tradition of giving is a faint shadow of the ultimate gift God has given us by giving Jesus’ life for our sins.

““For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” - John‬ ‭3:16‬ ‭NLT‬‬

This year instead of giving yourself a large credit card balance, put together a budget for your holiday spending and stick to it.  Those who truly love you want your love and presence, and not for you to go broke spending on presents or putting lavish banquets you can’t afford.

““But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? - Luke‬ ‭14:28 NLT‬‬

Figure out what you can spend this year without borrowing and plan your budget to that amount.  Be creative, make your gifts, shop at thrift stores and yard sales, have a Thanksgiving and Christmas pot luck, do whatever it takes and stick to your budget.  Make it your greatest gift this year to show and tell your loved ones how much you love them, without the burden of debt.  Remember no matter how much money you spend, you can’t buy lasting love or happiness.

Have a joyful, blessed Thanksgiving and Christmas and start the upcoming new year without the yoke of debt.

Honesty is the Best Policy!

The article linked to this post is about people lying on their mortgage applications.  On a macro level, it is very disturbing.  It is like deja vu all over again.  In 2008 the housing market had heated up and people lied about their income on their loan applications.  A short time later the housing market and stock market crashed, the economy tanked and things got ugly.

The other disturbing thing is on a micro moral level.  Why would you want a house so badly as to lie about your income, to buy a house you can't afford, which you will likely lose to foreclosure as soon as something bad happens in your life.  Honesty is always the best policy.  Peeps, always do the right thing!

God expects, demands honesty from us, in all things, even little things.  We are to be honest, fair and truthful to our employers, those we employ, and those we do business with.  Have you ever left a store and found out they undercharged you or missed ringing something up?  What did you do when you found out?  God's answer is go back and let them know and pay for it.  Typically, the workers or store owner will be surprised and even grateful.  That is a great opportunity to witness and shine God's light from the city on the hill.

““Do not steal. “Do not deceive or cheat one another. “Do not bring shame on the name of your God by using it to swear falsely. I am the LORD. “Do not defraud or rob your neighbor. “Do not make your hired workers wait until the next day to receive their pay.”

Leviticus 19:11-13 NLT

Have an awesome blessed day!t

Click on the title above or copy and paste the link below to see the article.

Payday Lending - Legalized Loan Sharking

“Just as the rich rule the poor, so the borrower is servant to the lender.” - Proverbs‬ ‭22:7‬ ‭NLT

Pay day loans are legal loan sharking.  Payday lenders are among the harshest masters.  They are a trap you should avoid "with gazelle intensity".  I read recently that college students are increasingly turning to these loans to supplement student loans.

For those that may not be familiar with these, a payday loan is where someone, who likely lives paycheck to paycheck, has an emergency before they get paid.  They have no savings or emergency fund set aside.  They go to a payday lender and borrow a few hundred dollars until their next paycheck, usually for a couple of weeks.  Based on the national average interest rates a $300 loan would have a fee (interest) of $45 for two weeks.  There may be some application or set up fees for a first time borrower too.  

It sounds like no big deal, $45 to get out of an emergency situation, but the reality is that the average payday loan is outstanding for approximately twenty two weeks.  Over that time period the borrower would have paid $495 of interest for a $300 loan.  So the borrower repays nearly $800 for a $300 emergency.  Ouch!  The national average interest rate for these loans is about 400%.  If that sounds like usury, it certainly is.  In some states that high rate is not allowed, but those states are few and far between and there are legal loopholes for many of them.

Payday loans are not profitable to the lender until the loan has been rolled about 4 to 6 times.  But no worries for the lender, enough people roll the loans enough times to make payday lenders very profitable.

So, what can be done to get off of the payday loan treadmill?  The best thing to do is avoid them to begin with.  An emergency fund of at least $1,000 will keep you out of the clutches of a payday lender.  Better yet, an emergency fund of three to six months expenses will help you withstand the storms that drive people to payday lenders.  

For those that don't have an emergency fund when the emergency arises or want to build the fund quickly, there are ways to get money fast:

1. Sell stuff you don't need.  Sometimes it's hard to part with our stuff, but it is only stuff.

2. Get a side job, mow lawns, clean up stuff, babysitting, whatever.

3. Give up bad habits - quit smoking - the average cost of a pack of cigarettes is $8 in California.  A pack a day habit could cost you $56 per week, $242 per month, or $2,912 per year.  A coffee or an energy drink habit could be close to that in cost too.

4. Give up cable tv for a time.  Cable tv can run well over $100 per month.

5. Look at every penny you spend for a few weeks and see where your money is going.  Want or need?  Many people will figure it out when they look at their spending.

What ever you do, stick with it, don't give up and stay far far away from payday lenders.  

“Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty.” - Proverbs‬ ‭21:5‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Consumer Debt

I came across this article talking about credit card debt (link shown below or click on article). It had some really scary statistics in it and a couple of “that’s interesting” types. I’ve summarized the scary ones below.

Americans are getting close to having $4 trillion dollars in consumer debt outstanding. Consumer debt is personal debt excluding mortgages. That is an insanely large number. That equates to more than $1,200 for every adult and child in the US.

40% of millennials have spent money they don’t have to keep up with their friends. That is not the road to wealth.

Americans owe more than $1 trillion in credit card debt. That’s more than the entire economy of all but 15 countries.

The average household with revolving (credit card) debt pays more than $900 in interest annually. Just think of what you could do with an extra $900 each year that you don’t have if you’re spending it on interest.

Consumers between the age of 35 and 65 (45 to 54 are the worst in that group) have the most credit card debt. That is the age when you should be getting out of debt and working towards retirement, not getting into debt.

Both men and women have outstanding credit card balances at nearly 30% of the credit limit. Considering that with the statistics above tells me that people are not paying off their cards each month and paying unnecessary interest.

27 million US adults put medical expenses on a credit card which is a really bad idea.

Americans opened 110 million new credit card accounts during a single year. One out of three Americans opened a new credit card account. Think about this occurring each year. It is likely a lot of those involve balance transfers which is like checking into the Hotel California of Debt - “You can check out any time but you can never leave” that credit card hotel.

“Just as the rich rule the poor, so the borrower is servant to the lender.” - Proverbs 22:7 NLT

Don’t be average when it comes to consumer debt, be exceptional and avoid it.


The Most Important Attribute Of The Wealthy

The article referenced below really drove home a point that Dave Ramsey touches on in his Financial Peace study.  If you want to be rich, don't live like you're poor.  Most people would think that means that they need the trappings of success, a big house, fancy car, etc.  Most people would be very very wrong.  That would be the attribute of wealthy people who don't want to stay that way.

The most common attribute of people who who have built wealth is patience.  Patience in waiting until they can afford what they want without borrowing or foregoing what's truly important.  Patience in avoiding the need for instant gratification.  This is the opposite of what the world teaches - you must have it NOW!!  It is what God teaches in various contexts - be patient in affliction, etc.

Check this out (click on the article title above or copy and paste the link below to see the whole article, its worth the read)


Invest wisely

I'm going to talk about investing today.  My background is that I am a CPA, at one time I held an insurance license and 4 different securities licenses.  I did financial and tax planning for a fee for people for a lot of years.  Now I manage treasury, insurance, accounting, and reporting for a large company.

People have asked the question about where to put their money to get the best return for many many years, perhaps hundreds or more.  The Bible has much to say about investing, ranging from practical tips such as...

    ⁃    diversify your investments -"But divide your investments among many places, for you do not know what risks might lie ahead.” Ecclesiastes‬ ‭11:2‬ ‭NLT

In other words, don't put everything you have in one stock, use index funds which have very low fees, diversify for you, and have out performed the high fee experts over time.  Even if one investment does poorly, others will not and you will do fine.  Look at a variety of investment types, index funds, safe (low yielding at the moment) money market or short term investments, real estate, precious metals, etc.

    ⁃    and to advice on savings - “Ants—they aren’t strong, but they store up food all summer." Proverbs‬ ‭30:25‬ ‭NLT‬‬
Regular, methodical saving and investing a fixed amount each month will yield a great return over time.  It is much like exercise, do something each day and you will be far healthier than is you do nothing for weeks and then go to the gym and work hard for a couple of hours.

    ⁃    to more spiritual advice on tithing - “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!” Malachi‬ ‭3:10‬ ‭NLT‬‬
Never forget that it is God's money, not ours, and we should give Him the first fruits of our harvest.

    ⁃    and "Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.”  Matthew‬ ‭6:19-21‬ ‭NLT‬‬
If we just save and invest but don't use our money for helping anyone but ourselves, we will have led a sad, empty life, and most likely be destined for spending eternity away from our Lord.

There are more than 2000 bible verses that deal with money - investing, giving, greed, etc.  God knows that money can be a tool to advance his kingdom or it can be our downfall.  Our advice today is to pray for wisdom and guidance, study the Bible verses on this subject and learn what God wants you to do with your money.  Consider participating in a "Financial Peace" small group or a Crown Ministries biblical financial study or Pastor Rick Warren has a Financial Freedom small group study, whichever is in your area or piques your interest.  And finally, don't hesitate to ask us any questions you might have.

God bless you and have a great day!


Project Management with Nehemiah

Project management is a key skill for success in business, it is also important in life and in serving The Lord.  Nearly two years ago I wrote a seven part practical blog on project management.  This time, I am going to focus on the book of Nehemiah from the Bible.  The best book that I have seen on project management is in The Bible - the book of Nehemiah.  There is really nothing I can add to what is written in Nehemiah, but I hope to point out classic project management steps used by Nehemiah.  

The classic steps in project management are initiating, planning, monitoring, managing risks, course corrections, and completion.  Each step is discussed below and all are critical to the success of a project.

Initiating - this seems so basic, but you see a need, develop support for it, obtain approval, gather resources, and proceed to the next step.  Nehemiah saw a need and initiated the rebuilding project.
“Hanani, one of my brothers, came from Judah with some other men, and I questioned them about the Jewish remnant that had survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem. They said to me, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.” When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.”
‭‭Nehemiah‬ ‭1:2-4‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“The king said to me, “What is it you want?” Then I prayed to the God of heaven, and I answered the king, “If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my ancestors are buried so that I can rebuild it.” Then the king, with the queen sitting beside him, asked me, “How long will your journey take, and when will you get back?” It pleased the king to send me; so I set a time. I also said to him, “If it pleases the king, may I have letters to the governors of Trans-Euphrates, so that they will provide me safe-conduct until I arrive in Judah? And may I have a letter to Asaph, keeper of the royal park, so he will give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel by the temple and for the city wall and for the residence I will occupy?” And because the gracious hand of my God was on me, the king granted my requests.” - Nehemiah‬ ‭2:4-8‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Planning - you must have a plan.  Even no plan is a plan.  The old saying is that failing to plan is planning to fail.  Planning requires you to understand the project and make sure you have sufficient resources to complete the task.  
““Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’” - Luke‬ ‭14:28-30‬ ‭NIV‬‬

An important part of planning is to define success or completion.  Nehemiah's success would be completed walls around the city and a working gate.

Monitoring - every project requires monitoring.  Nehemiah monitored his project and most likely kept a record of it which became the Book of Nehemiah.  He knew everything going on in the project and when there were problems, he took action.

Risk management - nearly every project has risks.  Nehemiah faced serious risks throughout his project, primarily opposition from Sanballat and his wicked friends.
“When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became angry and was greatly incensed. He ridiculed the Jews, and in the presence of his associates and the army of Samaria, he said, “What are those feeble Jews doing? Will they restore their wall? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they finish in a day? Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble—burned as they are?””
‭‭Nehemiah‬ ‭4:1-2‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Nehemiah took action to manage the risks - he started with prayer and he finished with focus on the project.  
“Hear us, our God, for we are despised. Turn their insults back on their own heads. Give them over as plunder in a land of captivity. Do not cover up their guilt or blot out their sins from your sight, for they have thrown insults in the face of the builders.”
‭‭Nehemiah‬ ‭4:4-5‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Course correction.  As a project goes on things don't always go well, or problems come to light. The people began to fear an attack by the opposition, so Nehemiah made a course correction.
“Also our enemies said, “Before they know it or see us, we will be right there among them and will kill them and put an end to the work.” Then the Jews who lived near them came and told us ten times over, “Wherever you turn, they will attack us.” Therefore I stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families, with their swords, spears and bows. After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.”” - Nehemiah‬ ‭4:11-14‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Completion - eventually the actual project is completed, but good project management doesn't end there.  An assessment of the project needs to be done and learnings need to be considered for future projects.  Nehemiah implemented procedures to ensure the safety of the people would continue.

“After the wall had been rebuilt and I had set the doors in place, the gatekeepers, the musicians and the Levites were appointed. I put in charge of Jerusalem my brother Hanani, along with Hananiah the commander of the citadel, because he was a man of integrity and feared God more than most people do. I said to them, “The gates of Jerusalem are not to be opened until the sun is hot. While the gatekeepers are still on duty, have them shut the doors and bar them. Also appoint residents of Jerusalem as guards, some at their posts and some near their own houses.”” - Nehemiah‬ ‭7:1-3‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Nehemiah saw a need, planned and obtained resources, monitored the process, managed risks, made course corrections and completed a major project successfully.    Throughout the project, he and the people constantly prayed for God's help and favor.  I believe that is the most important thing you can do in project management that you won't find in secular project management books.

“Remember me for this, my God, and do not blot out what I have so faithfully done for the house of my God and its services.” - Nehemiah‬ ‭13:14‬ ‭NIV‬‬

I hope with this article I have encouraged you to study the book of Nehemiah and learn his techniques for managing a project.  May God bless you with your projects large or small.



Google Dictionary defines legacy as "an amount of money or property left to someone in a will, or a thing handed down by a predecessor."  That sounds so sanitary and emotionless.  A legacy can be so much more than things.  It certainly includes money and things, but tge true legacy of value is love of The Lord.

Most any decent person, believer or not, wants to leave a legacy for their children.  We want our children to have a better life than we had, to not make the mistakes that we did and to learn and do the things we learned sooner than we learned them and we hope and pray that they will do the same for our grandchildren.

“Good people leave an inheritance to their grandchildren, but the sinner’s wealth passes to the godly.” - Proverbs‬ ‭13:22‬ ‭NLT

One of the worst things we can do is to leave them monetary wealth without the wisdom needed to handle it.  We are doing them no favors by giving them the wealth without leaving them a large legacy of wisdom.  It would be far better to leave them no money and let them learn through hard work.

“An inheritance obtained too early in life is not a blessing in the end.”
‭‭ - Proverbs‬ ‭20:21‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I remember a client from my early CPA firm days, who inherited a large amount of money and property before he really even started a career.  He spent a few hours each month keeping records and managing the property, and many hours partying and living the high life.  He raised two children in that environment and his son spent much of his time stoned and finally ended up dead in a drug related incident.  When I observed this, a man who had what many people dream of and yet lived a sad, empty, miserable life and passed that as an inheritance to his children.  This man’s parents only left him a portion of the inheritance they should have - wealth without the wisdom and tools to manage it and use it for good.

“Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.” - Proverbs‬ ‭22:6‬ ‭NLT‬‬

The most valuable inheritance you can leave your children and children’s children is wisdom.  

“For wisdom is far more valuable than rubies. Nothing you desire can compare with it.” - Proverbs‬ ‭8:11‬ ‭NLT‬‬

The most valuable legacy of all, worth more than priceless gems, is love for The Lord.  If you leave them that legacy alone, you have left them what they need to live a great life.  Anything more is really not important.

“Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline. My child, listen when your father corrects you. Don’t neglect your mother’s instruction. What you learn from them will crown you with grace and be a chain of honor around your neck.” - Proverbs‬ ‭1:7-9‬ ‭NLT‬‬

“Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.” - Proverbs‬ ‭22:6‬ ‭NLT‬‬

“Lord, you alone are my inheritance, my cup of blessing. You guard all that is mine.” - Psalms‬ ‭16:5‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Stay the Course

The following verse from Nehemiah took place as he was rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem and was nearing completion.  As we get closer to success, particularly in God’s Work, the enemy will attack all the more and try to stop your work.

So Sanballat and Geshem sent a message asking me to meet them at one of the villages in the plain of Ono. But I realized they were plotting to harm me, so I replied by sending this message to them: “I am engaged in a great work, so I can’t come. Why should I stop working to come and meet with you?” Four times they sent the same message, and each time I gave the same reply. The fifth time, Sanballat’s servant came with an open letter in his hand, and this is what it said: “There is a rumor among the surrounding nations, and Geshem tells me it is true, that you and the Jews are planning to rebel and that is why you are building the wall. According to his reports, you plan to be their king.” “They were just trying to intimidate us, imagining that they could discourage us and stop the work. So I continued the work with even greater determination.”
‭‭Nehemiah‬ ‭6:2-6,9‬ ‭NLT‬‬

This is a great verse to remind us to not get distracted from the work God gave us, regardless of the evil one trying to pull us away, or distract us with insults and character assassination.  To be a great work from God, it doesn’t have to be rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem, it can be setting up before Church, raising your children in a biblical fashion, or whatever work God has set before our hands.  It doesn’t have to be some high profile ministry, and it usually isn’t.

“Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ.”
‭‭Colossians‬ ‭3:23-24‬ ‭NLT‬‬

“Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.”
‭‭Philippians‬ ‭2:12-15‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Dear Heavenly Father, we thank you for all the blessings you’ve given us, including even the mundane tasks of each day that don’t seem glorious or glamorous to us.  Let us build and rebuild the wall of Christ around us, our family, and our friends.  Let us live our life and do our work each day as if we were working for You, Lord.  Please make today a productive and fun day for us, Amen.

Secrets to success

This article has been updated with some new thoughts.  Years ago, there was a play called "How to succeed in business without really trying".  Clearly this would be a fantasy for most people, the truth is success comes from a number of deliberate steps and behaviors.  Interestingly enough, these behaviors are all endorsed in the Bible.  The following are my guiding principles for working and serving:

    0.     Give it your best.
"Do not sacrifice to the Lord your God an ox or a sheep that has any defect or flaw in it, for that would be detestable to him." - Deuteronomy‬ ‭17:1‬  - NIV‬

What does this verse have to do with us?   We don't sacrifice animals anymore, so how does this apply?  God wants us to give him our best every time, our best efforts, not just a half hearted effort, he wants the first part of our earnings as the tithe and not what is left over, he wants our hearts and not just passing thoughts.  God doesn't need anything from us, but we need to give him our very best for our spiritual well being, to remind us that he should be first in our lives.  Giving your best can be an act of worship, if your heart is right.

"Whatever you do, do well. For when you go to the grave, there will be no work or planning or knowledge or wisdom." - Ecclesiastes 9:10 - NLT

Our God never does things half way, and neither should we.  This applies to work and ministry and life in general.  Whatever we do, do our best, regardless of whether we enjoy it or not.  One of the tests of character is do we do our enthusiastic best on tasks we do not enjoy.  It pays off if we do.  The right heart attitude helps.

    0.    Honesty is the best policy.
God expects, demands honesty from us, in all things, even little things.  We are to be honest, fair and truthful to our employers, those we employ, and those we do business with.  Have you ever left a store and found out they undercharged you or missed ringing something up?  What did you do when you found out?  God's answer is go back and let them know and pay for it.  Typically, the workers or store owner will be surprised and even grateful.  That is a great opportunity to witness and shine God's light from the city on the hill.

“Do not steal.  Do not deceive or cheat one another.  Do not bring shame on the name of your God by using it to swear falsely. I am the LORD.  Do not defraud or rob your neighbor.  Do not make your hired workers wait until the next day to receive their pay.” - Leviticus 19:11-13 - NLT

    0.     Get to it.
“Work brings profit, but mere talk leads to poverty!” - Proverbs‬ ‭14:23‬  - NLT‬‬

Sometimes you read something in the bible or in study notes and then not long after some thing totally outside of the bible reminds you again.  When that happens, we firmly believe God is trying to make a point.  This happens to us all of the time.

We have been reading through the bible, beginning to end, and are in 1st Kings a while ago reading about the end of David's reign, and the point we got was that David was a man after God's heart, he prayed and worshipped and composed songs to the Lord constantly, but after praying he acted.  He went to work, he didn't sit there passively and wait for God to provide (although sometimes you need to wait for God).  He prayed for guidance and strength to carry out his mission and through his work, God provided.  

Now here is the reinforcement.  We gave our little dog a ball that squeaks when squeezed.  When it squeaks she goes crazy.  When we set the ball on the floor she stared at it and barked at it but no squeak.  She kept that up for a long time and still the ball would not squeak.  If she had just she grabbed and bit the ball and squeezed it, the ball would have squeaked.  That ball will not squeak without the work needed to make it squeak.

Pray for guidance, wisdom and strength then get to work.  This applies to everything in our lives, for example our finances.  If you are in debt, pray and get to work.  So, pray and get to work.  Grab the ball and give it a good hard squeeze and you will get the results you need.

“Work brings profit, but mere talk leads to poverty! Wealth is a crown for the wise; the effort of fools yields only foolishness.” - Proverbs‬ ‭14:23-24‬  - NLT‬‬

    0.     Action speaks louder than words.
The verse below was initially selected to talk about work, but it really applies to all of life. God raises us up and he can bring us down.  As much as we want to believe it is by our efforts alone, it is really our efforts and God's grace that bring us success in whatever we do.  We should always give our best effort, but never forget God raises us up.  

“I warned the proud, ‘Stop your boasting!’ I told the wicked, ‘Don’t raise your fists! Don’t raise your fists in defiance at the heavens or speak with such arrogance.’ For no one on earth—from east or west, or even from the wilderness— should raise a defiant fist. It is God alone who judges; he decides who will rise and who will fall.” - Psalms‬ ‭75:4-7‬ - NLT‬‬

    0.    Lead by example
"Don't lord it over people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own good example."  1 Peter 5:3 - NLT
“Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.” - Philippians‬ ‭2:12-15‬ - NLT‬‬

    0.     Avoid making your boss look bad
Always try to make your boss look good, avoid doing things that could make them look bad, and never ever let them be blindsided.
"A king rejoices in wise servants but is angry with those who disgrace him."  Proverbs 14:35 - NLT

    0.     Mind your own business
"Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you don't need to compare yourself to anyone else". Galatians 6:4 - NLT
Comparing yourself to others or worrying about what others do or don't do, (if they don't report to you, of course) is at best distracting and at worst can make you miserable.  It makes your days long, unhappy and unproductive.

    0.     Play nicely
“Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.”  Romans‬ ‭12:16-18‬ - NLT‬‬
Having a reputation of working well with others will never hurt you in the world, and will definitely make you promotable in this world of teams.

A prayer:
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for equipping us with all we need to serve you.  I pray this in Jesus holy and precious name.  Amen.

If you work hard and give it your best, you will reap dividends both in this world and the next. 
“That’s the whole story. Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty. God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad.” - Ecclesiastes‬ ‭12:13-14‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Store Up Treasures That Matter

Sometimes God speaks to us in his still small voice in the things we see or do, other times it is the proverbial "smack upside the head" that is needed to get our attention.  The other day I received an e-mail from an auction house regarding an estate sale auction for the estate of "prominent local collectors".  My wife and I enjoy going to estate sales, but at times it is sad when you see family photos and other family treasures being sold.  We enjoy estate sales for the people, the treasure hunt, and a chance to learn and see history.

These particular collectors had an huge and amazing number of beautiful items.  They had more paintings than most people would have wall space on which to hang them, there was enough fine china to feed a battalion of soldiers, and more furniture than most people would purchase and discarded in a lifetime.  As I scrolled through the amazing photos, God spoke to me, bringing a parable to mind:

"Then he told a story: "A rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops.  He said to himself, 'what should I do?  I don't have rooms for all my crops.'  Then he said 'I know!  I'll tear down my barns and build bigger ones.  Then I will have room enough to store all of my wheat and other goods.  And I'll sit back and say to myself, "my friend, you have stored away for years to come.  Now take it easy!  Eat, drink and be merry!'"  But God said to him, 'You fool!  You will die this very night.  Then who will get everything you worked for.  Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God". Luke 12:16-21 NLT

Returning my thoughts to the auction, I was overcome with a sense of sadness - thinking about an entire life of gathering and collecting that will end up being sold in a few hours by a fast talking guy with a hammer - "sold to bidder number 123!".  Even in an earthly sense, it was sad that no one from the family wanted this stuff.  I try to imagine that the proceeds will go to a worthy charity or cause and it makes it a bit less sad.  Yet, at the same time think of the joy these people missed out on in life by hoarding and not giving to others while they were alive.  We have learned that some of the most wonderful blessings come from giving to others, even a trinket or memento.

"Don't store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal.  Store up your treasures in heaven where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.  Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will be also."  Matthew 6:19-21

I don't believe that it is wrong to have nice things, and pretty things.  What is wrong, and foolish, is to hoard and hold more than we can display, enjoy or appreciate.  Because our life on earth is limited, we should build memories and bless others as much as possible, because that is the real treasure that we can collect and enjoy here on earth and in heaven. 

“There is another serious problem I have seen under the sun. Hoarding riches harms the saver. Money is put into risky investments that turn sour, and everything is lost. In the end, there is nothing left to pass on to one’s children. We all come to the end of our lives as naked and empty-handed as on the day we were born. We can’t take our riches with us. And this, too, is a very serious problem. People leave this world no better off than when they came. All their hard work is for nothing—like working for the wind.

Even so, I have noticed one thing, at least, that is good. It is good for people to eat, drink, and enjoy their work under the sun during the short life God has given them, and to accept their lot in life. And it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—this is indeed a gift from God.”  Ecclesiastes‬ ‭5:13-16, 18-19‬ ‭NLT‬‬


Mother's Day

With Mother's Day coming very soon, and Father's Day a month later, I thought it would be a good time to remind you to watch out for your elderly parents.  There are a lot of bad guys out there who could not care less about your parents well-being.  They take advantage of the slower thinking, hearing impairment and fears that elderly people have.

The article linked here talks about some things to watch for.


Honor your father and your mother

“Honor your father and mother. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the Lord your God is giving you" - Exodus‬ ‭20:12‬ ‭NLT‬‬

While this commandment was given to the nation of Israel for the old covenant people, we as new covenant people should live by it, along with the other nine commandments.  They are clear instructions on our relationship with God and other humans.  Besides the obvious ways of honoring our parents - love, respect and obedience - there are other ways we should honor our parents.  Here are some ways we can honor our parents into their old age.

Your parents did their best to care for you and protect you in your childhood to keep you from harm, they advised you in the foolishness of your youth to keep you from making some of the mistakes they made, and even into your adulthood when you began a family of your own.  As your parents become older, it is almost a complete role reversal.  We must look out for them.  

As people age and their bodies decay, they become less and less able to take care of themselves.  Their cognitive abilities decline, they don't hear or see as well as when they were younger, and their strength and vigor become nearly nonexistent.  Some things that the elderly must contend with that we as their children must be aware of and even help them compensate for are discussed below.

Loneliness and isolation - friends of their youth, spouses and their siblings are no longer living or may be far away, their children have little time for them, as they have children, careers and lives of their own and could be living far away.  They probably don't get out much or keep up on current events or news.

Fear - as people age and can no longer work, fear sets in - they have a finite amount of savings, a small fixed income, and little or no ability to increase either.  Their ability to protect themselves physically is very limited.  They find overcoming illness or injury takes far longer than when they were young, and in many cases recovery is incomplete at best.

Sadness and regret - they no longer have living parents and they know their life is mostly behind them and there is little opportunity to fix past mistakes or recover from new ones.

Dementia - as people age, the chances of getting some form of dementia increases.  At age 60-64, slightly less than 1/2 of 1% of people have been diagnosed with some form of dementia, this increases to more than 11% by age 90.  Some illnesses can mimic dementia as well.  Even for those that don't have a diagnosis of dementia, most think slower and forget things.  Age related cognitive decline is a term I have heard referring to this.

Money - people are living many years longer after they retire and their money runs out if they have an emergency, and Social Security increases annually with an inflation rate that does not reflect the true increase in the cost of aging.  Medical costs alone have increased 5-7% over the last few years, while Social Security increases have been near zero over the same period.

Scams - because of many of the aforementioned issues, the elderly are easy victims for scam artists, both criminal and legal.  Many elderly receive calls nearly every day telling them they have a tax or criminal issue that they need to resolve, or that a family member is in jail in a foreign country and so on.  The fear and cognitive decline make them a ready victim for these scams.  Just as bad are the legal scams.  Salespeople pretending to be a friend or preying on their fears and loneliness to sell them stuff they don't need at higher than normal prices or get them into inappropriate risky investments.

The fear of running out of money can drive the elderly to risky investments that are totally inappropriate for them and then embarrassment will keep them from reporting the scam.  Fear of running out of money is frequently used by an organization whose initials are PCH.  "You may have already won", "we could be at your door with a check for...", "how would you like your millions paid out?" are all ways they get the attention of the elderly who then order stuff they can't use and don't need, to hopefully increase their chances of winning that prize money that they desperately believe they need.

How can we honor and help our aging parents?  

First and foremost we must be involved in their lives.  Show up frequently and make sure they are not living in filth, that they are healthy and appear well cared for.  Let them know that you love them and are there for them.  If you are there with them frequently they will know they can trust you and will turn to you instead of the scammers and salesmen to meet their needs.

Watch their finances to the greatest extent possible.  Have access to their banking and other financial accounts, either online or by reviewing statements.  Make sure they aren't being taken advantage of, or are spending foolishly, sending or spending money where it is not needed or appropriate.

Encourage them to live on a budget.  Encourage them to get long term care insurance while they are young enough to make it affordable.  A few months in a long term care facility, which is not covered by Medicare will empty a bank account in the blink of an eye.  Costs are in the thousands monthly.  You may have to help them out financially on occasion, just as they helped you when you were young.  How many of you had parents that lent you money to buy a car, or even help feed your kids, knowing it would not be repaid?

Participate in their medical care.  Know what their ailments are and what drugs they take.  As people age, the number of different doctors and medical specialists they need to see increases exponentially.  Each doctor/specialist may prescribe medicines frequently without knowing what other medicines the patient is taking because a different doctor prescribed it and Medicare doesn't compensate them for taking the extra time to ask.  The elderly usually take the meds without question and at the same time doctors are pushed by pharmaceutical companies to prescribe the newest, and most expensive drugs.  Understand all of the medicines your parents are taking, the purpose and the risks, including interactions with other meds they are taking.

The common theme in this is be involved in their lives, just as they hopefully were in yours when you were under their care.  We are all busy, but sometimes we have to put aside fun and defer goals in our lives to honor your parents.  It is amazing how quickly they are gone and you can't help them or care for them when they are in the grave.  Regrets after they are gone, are the worst kind.  You also might find out some amazing things about your parents and glean valuable wisdom.  Honor your parents while they are living!

“Honor your father and mother.” This is the first commandment with a promise: If you honor your father and mother, “things will go well for you, and you will have a long life on the earth." - Ephesians‬ ‭6:2-3‬ ‭NLT‬‬

10 Things to do to Protect Yourself From Fraudsters and Hackers

Every day in the news we read and hear about a new hack or online scam where someone is robbed or had their identity stolen or both.  Most major retailers have been hacked, along with Equifax, and probably others we have not heard about yet.  There is no question that enough of your information is out there readily available that it is just a matter of time before you get hacked, if it already hasn't happened already.  

The only questions are how long before it is discovered, what will it cost you and how much time and effort will be needed to fix the problem.  I did a search, recently, on the dark web, where this kind of info is traded, and a lot of my info is out there including old online passwords.  I have had more than 1/2 dozen debit and credit cards compromised in the last three years, fraudulent checks issued on my accounts, and emails from a long lost cousin from Nigeria or a Nigerian prince wanting me to help them get money out of their country.

My employer has had attempted frauds aggregating in the millions of dollars, with no significant losses due to the protections we have in place.  Hardly a week goes by that I don't get an e-mail from what appears to be the CEO asking me to wire funds to China, Russia or Nigeria for some urgent, but top secret deal.  

So, with all this insanity, what can we do to protect ourselves?  Well, here are some basic steps you can take to keep your accounts safer, find a breach quickly, or fix the problem afterwards.  These are in no particular order.

    1.    Change you passwords frequently, particularly with your online credit, banking and investing accounts.  Don't  use something obvious as a password, don't use the same password on all of your accounts, as tempting as that might be, and use strong complicated passwords that would be very difficult to guess., even using a computer.
    2.    For any account that has the option available, use multi-factor authentication.  This might be a separate token, a code texted to your cellphone, or some other means.  Check out the sites webpage and look for or search for the words multi-factor authentication. 
    3.    In spite of what Dave Ramsey says, never ever use your bank debit card for an online purchase, at a gas pump or an outdoor ATM.  Use cash or a credit card.  Online transactions have a much higher risk of being compromised.  There are laws around credit cards to limit your losses to $50 maximum and sometimes zero.  If the hackers access your bank account, they may not leave you any money to pay your bills and it sometimes takes a long time to get your money back.
    4.    When you order checks, if you still use them (I do), have them delivered to your bank instead of to your home.  They can be stolen from your mailbox, or from your porch if you use a delivery service other than the postal service.
    5.    Many online bank or credit card accounts will notify you of transactions immediately, if you elect to have it and it is normally without a charge.  I get text message notices from my banks and credit card accounts of all deposits, payments, debits or withdrawals.  If you can, set notices for all transactions or for amounts 1 cent or higher if a dollar limit is requested.  Sometimes fraudsters will test your account by making a deposit of a few cents or maybe just a single cent before they empty your account.
    6.    Check your credit reports, at a minimum, annually from all three of the credit bureaus, or whenever you suspect your personal information has been compromised.  You can get a free report one time per year from each of the bureaus (Equifax, Experian and Trans Union) by going to  There are a number of other sites that will do the same thing while trying to sell you additional services you probably don't need.
    7.    In extreme situations, or if you have no need for credit, you can contact the credit bureaus and freeze your credit.  This will prevent any new accounts from being set up without your knowledge.  If you apply for credit you will need to unfreeze them, but if you are far enough along in your Financial Peace journey you don't need credit anyway.  An added bonus of freezing your accounts is that the bureaus have to notify you of certain changes being reported to them, such as a change of name or address on your accounts.
    8.    If you can't get activity notifications for an account, check balances and activity online frequently.  Make sure you know what items you expect and who is receiving payments.  I have seen small time hackers use a bank account to make their payments and it may even be to the same companies you pay, so pay attention!
    9.    Consider a monitoring service.  Use one that not only looks at your credit information, but which also monitors web activity and will help you, or do the work to clear up identity theft issues.
    10.    If something sounds too good to be true, it is too good to be true.  No, you did not win a lottery that you didn't play in, you don't have a long lost rich cousin in Nigeria, and the IRS is not going to call you and threaten you with jail out of the blue.  Always be skeptical and verify, verify, verify.

All of this may sound like a lot of work or a pain, but it is a lot less work than cleaning up your credit or trying to get your money back.

Grow in Your Relationship with Christ, not with Debt

I know that I write about debt more than any other subject.  But, i believe it is a very important subject for believers and non-believers alike.  

“Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.”
‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭5:8‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Debt is like a pagan God, it forces us to bring tithes and offerings on a frequent regular basis (monthly payments), we carry its mark with us wherever we go (plastic card) and we see its logo or mark on most businesses doors.  Our creditors demand worship by constantly sending us stuff - statements, promotions, etc. and we tend to "grow in our relationship" with debt, and as we grow in our relationship with debt instead of our relationship with Christ, our fears and worries grow and we absolutely have no peace and joy in our lives.

“Just as the rich rule the poor, so the borrower is servant to the lender.”
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭22:7‬ ‭NLT‬‬

All of this takes our focus off of the one true God.  The God who desires our worship, but does not demand or force it, the God who wants us to give offerings and tithes for our benefit, not for His, but does not force us to do so, and the God who, as we grow in our relationship with him gives us a "peace beyond all understanding".

I read lots of articles about debt.  One I read nearly two years ago, was entitled "You May be Broke and Not Know It".   The article talks about how many of us are broke because of our debt.  The average household had approximately $100,000 in debt right now, and it's likely higher today.  Many people have little or no debt, so the real number is so much higher for many people.  With all that debt, we add to our worries and in desperation look for a savior in the wrong places, for example, our government or courts through bankruptcy.  The one true savior is Christ, and he can help us to get out of debt.

One "small" portion of many people's debt (10%) is credit card debt.  The article said that the average household has $10,000 of credit card debt.  Think about that.  If you are paying the minimum payment (3% or $300) it will take 48 months, or 4 years, to pay off $10,000.  Over that time you would pay almost $4,000 in interest, assuming that you have stopped charging on the card.  Just imagine what you could do with that extra $300 per month!  But the reality is that many people continue to charge until it gets worse and worse, and they spend the rest of their lives on the debt treadmill.  But, it doesn't have to be that way.

Here is an important homework (ewww) assignment - total up all of your installment payments - credit cards, car loans, etc, excluding your mortgage, and see how much more you could have to save and/or spend if those monthly debt payments were gone.  Look at how much interest you are paying each month and realize that you gain nothing for that expense.  If you are shocked and realize that you are a slave to your creditors, then you know you need a plan to get out and stay out of debt.  

Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace or Crown Ministry's Financial Freedom small groups, depending on what is available in your area, both provide excellent tools to help you get and stay on track with your finances, in a biblical fashion.  I have participated in and lead both and they helped me immensely.  Reach out to me if you have questions or need help with your debt.